What was your life like before you were in STARS?

Before STARS I was going through quite a bit at a young age, I was going through my second knee surgery at the time. I faced a lot of bullying in high school and was going through a lot at home, regarding my parent’s marriage.

What made you want to get involved in the STARS program? How did you get involved?

I felt like I could’ve definitely used a mentor during high school especially when having to face my classmates that were bullying me. So I thought that there might’ve been someone out there who needed someone to lean on and I wanted to be that person to be leaned on. I got involved when Russel Dains came into my AVID classroom and introduced us to STARS and how much impact it has on younger generations, and I wanted to be a part of that positive change.

What is your fondest memory from your STARS experience?

My fondest memory was spending time with the other mentors and our mentor Russel. As a lot of people know, Russel can bring fun into anything. But the times that we all got to spend together, at the end we became one big family and I always looked forward to spending time with my second family.

What was the most surprising to you about your STARS experience? STARS National Conference (if applicable)?

What was most surprising about my STARS experience was how much it impacted me as a mentor. I developed skills that I never knew that I had. I had someone believe in me and helped me believe in myself. STARS during the school year and SNC during the summer taught me a lot of life skills that I still use to this day in the beginning of my adulthood.

How has STARS impacted your life?

STARS helped me believe that I can really do anything once I have set my mind to it, that nothing is being given but that I have to find it. STARS showed me how to believe in myself and then pass that faith on to those who I was mentoring. STARS taught me how to be open with others and share my story and not be ashamed of it. STARS turned me from a quiet shy girl into a strong independent outspoken woman. I can’t thank this program enough for how much it has changed my life positively.

What is one takeaway from your STARS experience that you will continue to use in your life? STARS National Conference (if applicable)?

Investing in others, whether if it means a teenager, a grown up, etc. but everyone needs someone to lean on, and that is what I was taught to do.

How has being a mentor/having a mentor made an impact on your life?

Being a mentor showed me leadership. I use it with my profession. I use those skills with my little brother. I use it with the youth group at my church. With the kids that I spend time with and if I see that they are in need of someone, even though they do not have to say so, I right away put my “mentor cap” on and invest in them, exactly the way I was taught when I was a mentor in STARS.

What would you say to other teens who are considering participating in the STARS program? The STARS National Conference (if applicable)?

I would say “go for it! You will not regret it”

What would you say to donors who are considering giving to FRIENDS FIRST?

This is an organization worth donating to, we impact kids’ lives and make it a positive impact. In my opinion, the younger generations are faced with so much negativity, that this organization will bring that light into their lives and then it becomes a chain reaction.

What do you think others should know about FRIENDS FIRST/STARS?

ALL of it together just brings people out of their comfort zone and pushes others to do their absolute best.

What inspires you?

Helping others and making a positive impact and raising awareness.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

STARS changed my life for the better and it literally saved my life. Without STARS, I wouldn’t be here. I have my mentors Russel Dains and Anesha Henningham to thank for that.

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